Automotive collaboration fuels rapid expansion at Stark County software firm

September 1, 2019

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Source: Crain’s Cleveland Business

When employees of Surgere unpack their boxes at a new 40,000- square-foot headquarters this January, they might not have as much elbow room as someone coming from a 7,000-square-foot building would expect.

President and CEO William Wappler estimates employment will mushroom to three times its August size of 150 staffers by the time Surgere relocates from its Lauby Road site in North Canton to a Massillon Road building one exit south on Interstate 77 in Green. The Stark County company is investing nearly $10 million in the new headquarters, which will be constructed from an existing building.

And while most of those new hires will be based at the headquarters, the company also recently launched a subsidiary in central Mexico. Wappler said about 30 people will work there by year’s end.

By early 2021, he anticipates the company will have about 900 employees worldwide with “relationship offices” in Japan and Europe, as well as sites in Nashville, Tenn., and Detroit.

“Right now, we are hiring nearly three people a day,” Wappler said. “It’s quite an aggressive expansion.”

And, he added, “It has everything to do with AutoSphere.”

AutoSphere is Surgere’s effort to digitally link automotive original equipment manufacturers with their suppliers and streamline the processes they use to track reusable packaging and the associated parts.

The web-based platform traces its roots to a December 2017 meeting with Honda, Nissan, Toyota, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and several of their top-tier suppliers and transporters. At the Cleveland assembly, the carmakers agreed to explore a community approach to container asset management.

Wappler said Honda was the first to deploy a shared container tracking system with its vendors, selecting Surgere as its technology provider.

“The others thought that model would be a perfect framework to get (the community) started,” he said.

Good timing

Surgere was a logical fit. The company began in 2004 in the package engineering space. It optimized the design of reusable shipping containers for auto suppliers.

Pretty early on, the startup spotted an opportunity to help OEMs better manage their reusable investments. The costly containers were often discarded or misplaced; counting containers and finding lost ones — and sometimes the assets inside — was largely a manual process. Continue reading.